“What if I said I had a medicine that would keep you calm but alert? That would relax and energize you? That would help you recover, boost your immune system, lower the oxidative stress that causes aging, power you up, and fuel every cell in your body…”
Would you be interested?
I was on a flight recently with my husband. He, like many I know, hates to fly.
It all started a while back when one of our flights took us through a tropical storm that dropped us into free fall, releasing oxygen masks and slamming us around enough to leave a deeply embedded scar of fear.
On this flight, it all started again. Not quite so bad this time. Just enough to let that long-ago memory resurface. I looked over at my guy. His eyes were closed and he appeared relaxed. I thought he might be asleep but he rarely sleeps on flights.
When we landed, I asked him if he had slept. “No,” he said, “I did my breathing.”
Why we breathe
We all know how to breathe. But did you know that the way you breathe can be “Life-Changing” and is “the easiest lifehack ever,” writes Dr. Belisa Vranich in her book, Breathe. It’s even believed to affect our longevity.
“How you breathe is an indicator of your longevity and quality of life. The health of your body is reflected in the way you breathe. Change the way you breathe and there will automatically be positive changes in your longevity and quality of life.” Dr. Belisa Vranich
Breathing is one of those things we hardly think about. It’s natural. And thank God it is. If we had to think about each breath, we’d probably get distracted and forget – which wouldn’t turn out so well.
Maybe it’s about time we think about it.
Because here’s the deal… How you breathe is something you can control, and when done a certain way can diminish anxiety and pain, lower blood pressure, improve digestion, help you sleep, give you more energy, unburden you from the past and future, cut your chances for disease, diminish fear, help you live longer, and shut down stress.
“An ancient Tibetan saying, ‘Breath is the horse and mind is the rider.’ By controlling your breath, you will learn to master your thoughts and, in so doing, you will master your emotions and control your body as well.” From, Breath Well. Be Well, Robert Fried
Start your day with this…
Here’s a practice that I use most mornings, or when I’m frustrated, mad, afraid, or totally stressed out. It immediately shifts me into peace and calm. And the beauty of it… it takes only about a minute.
At the start of each day, find a quiet place where you can be alone and undisturbed and go there. Sit quietly and comfortably – upright in a chair, or if you’re into meditation, on a pillow.
Breathe in slowly and deeply, through your nose, to the count of four. Then breathe out to the count of four. Pause slightly at the top and bottom of each breath. This creates about a ten-second cycle. Don’t worry about getting the timing perfect. Everyone is different. Just focus on breathing slowly and deeply.
The sound of waves
I often visualize breathing into my heart and focus on the sound of my breath going in and out. If you’ve ever walked a beach on a calm evening and listened to the waves, you’ll sense a similarity in your breathing and the quiet sound of waves coming in and gently pulling back.
Do this for a minute or two until you feel a sense of calm. If your mind wanders (which it will) bring it back to listen to your breath.
Shallow breathing = anxiety
Most of us breathe in short shallow breaths. This limits the amount of oxygen that makes it to your cells. Short breathing is the response to, or creation of, anxiety. It stimulates your stress response – your natural “fight or flight” response.
The slow, deep breathing of this exercise, on the other hand, stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system – your natural calming system and brings on a sense of peacefulness. Something we all need about now. And when the body’s calm, every function within works better.
“You can live taking in hamster-size breaths, but you’ll suffer, your sleep will suffer, and so will your concentration, feeling of balance, and ability to perform. You’ll be alive, but not a very happy hamster.”
Breath and longevity
There have even been studies equating breathing rate and metabolism with the health of our body and the length of our lives – essentially suggesting that the slower the breathing cycle, the longer and stronger we live. About six breaths per minute is considered the “optimum” rate for health and longevity.
The exercise I’ve outlined here takes only a minute or two, so use it throughout the day – at your desk, in your car during rush traffic (just keep your eyes open), anytime you experience an upset and need to calm things down.
Using this technique before bed can also help with sleep in sleepless times.
Building a habit
A habit is created when you consistently bring a new practice into your life. This one needs only a minute of time – something we can all afford. Schedule it for the same time each day: upon waking, before lunch, before you leave work, in your car before heading into the house after work, before bed, or just when you need a break.
With love ♥,
I love hearing from you! Take my challenge… carve out 2 minutes a day for the next 5 days and let me know how you feel. Post your comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org